The National Today: Finding Mugabe a home, stark shooting stats, fatberg blues

A deeper dive into the day's most important stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse.

A deeper dive into the day's most important stories

Zimbabwe's ruling party said Monday that longtime President Robert Mugabe could be impeached within days, after the world's oldest head of state ignored the party's midday deadline to resign. (AFP/Getty Images)

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Finding a home for Mugabe

Robert Mugabe, the still-sort-of president of Zimbabwe, has a long track record of confounding expectations.

Yesterday, it happened when he reportedly switched speeches during a nationally televised address, and instead of resigning office, vowed to stay on.

It seems improbable that the 93-year-old will make a comeback:

  • There has been a military coup.
  • He has been sacked as leader by his own party and now faces impeachment.
  • And most importantly, after 37 years of tyrannical rule, 'Uncle Bob' is deeply unpopular with the Zimbabwean public.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe baffled the country Sunday, ending his address on national television without announcing his resignation. (Associated Press)
Perhaps the problem is trying to figure out just where Mugabe, and his equally despised wife Grace, might go.

Traditional destinations for disgraced strongmen, like Paris and London, are out. (The European Union has had sanctions against Mugabe and his wife in place since 2002, and made a point of renewing them on the president's birthday last February.)

South Africa— with its shared history of liberation struggles — has been seen as a logical landing spot. But there has already been some complaining about the potential cost. (The country spent more than $5 million hosting former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide between 2004 and 2011).

The EU brought in sanctions against Mugabe and his wife in 2002 that prevent them from seeking asylum there. (Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters)
And Grace Mugabe has been less-than-welcome in the country since she allegedly assaulted a fashion model in a Johannesburg hotel suite in August. (The South African government granted her diplomatic immunity, so she could avoid arrest.)

As this BBC report notes, the Mugabes own property in Malaysia and Dubai, but may well be headed for Singapore. The Zimbabwean autocrat has been receiving treatment for health issues there, on and off, for the past decade, and it may be one of the few nations willing to welcome him.

Guns, death and political paralysis

Veronica Hartfield, centre-left, and her family attend a vigil for her husband, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Officer Charleston Hartfield. He was killed along with 57 others at a Las Vegas country music festival on Oct. 1. (Robyn Beck/FP/Getty Images)
It's been just over two weeks since a shooting spree in Sutherland Springs, Texas, left 26 people dead. And the only guarantee about guns in the United States is that the next massacre is coming.

There have been 24 deaths and 64 injuries in two dozen mass shootings since the Texas church killings on Nov. 5.

One attack in California last week, which left six dead and 12 injured, made international headlines. But most passed with hardly a ripple, like a shooting in Columbus, Ga., that wounded seven last Thursday. Or the botched robbery of a card game on Nov. 12 in La Grange, N.C., that resulted in three fatalities, including one of the holdup men.

By now, it's a well-established pattern. In the 34 days between the Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting that left 58 dead and 546 injured and Sutherland Springs, there were 37 other such attacks, killing an additional 35 people and wounding 128 more.

And to date in 2017, there have been 13,755 gun deaths in America, including 659 children under the age of 12. The vast majority of these deaths went unreported by the media.

Where shootings happened in the U.S. from Jan. 1 to Nov. 20, 2017. (CBC/
National polling has consistently suggested that a majority of Americans support stronger gun control measures like universal background checks for purchasers. One survey, published last week by Quinnipiac University, claims 95 per cent support for thorough checks for buyers, and 94 per cent support among those who already own guns.

Yet, America's obvious gun problem remains an issue that few politicians are willing to tackle.

The sorrow and outrage over Las Vegas and Texas have produced two bills in Congress. One, introduced last week in the Senate, would improve information sharing - but not expand - background checks. The other would put a greater onus on the U.S. military to report behaviour by service members, like domestic violence, that would disqualify them from buying a gun.

Subterranean fatberg blues

The biggest fatberg Thames Water has ever tackled, the monster in Whitechapel, took crews nine weeks to blast out. (Thames Water)
The streets of London can be disgusting enough, but what lurks below Britain's capital is truly foul.

Giant, congealed blobs of grease, fat, cooking oil, wet wipes, condoms and diapers that grow until they choke the city's Victorian sewer system. Dubbed 'fatbergs' by the unlucky crews who have to flense them apart with picks, shovels and high-pressure water jets, they are the stuff of nightmares.

"The greyish-brown fatberg that I saw in the sewer under London's Chinatown had a chalk-like consistency and was bathed in chest-deep fecal matter," writes the CBC's Thomas Daigle. "Although, the smell was less potent than I would have imagined. Stale grease in a highway rest stop washroom is how I would describe it."

Daigle recently descended into the sewer system to watch as workers from Thames Water tried to slim a fatberg down. Here's some video - if you dare.

So far, crews have found five of the grease mountains beneath the city's core.

The largest, in Whitechapel, is estimated at 130,000 tonnes. (It took nine weeks to blast apart.)

Vince Minney, a Thames Water sewer flusher, scoops out a chunk of the Chinatown fatberg. (Thames Water)
Despite all the publicity and public education, the problem is actually worsening, with sewers now being blocked by smaller fatslides up to five times an hour, necessitating emergency clean-ups that cost the city $1.7 million a month.

But as Daigle reports tonight on The National, one company has found a way to turn London's worst waste into fuel.

Tune in.

Well after dinner.

Quote of the moment

"The consciences are waking. Every time one of these pigs fall, it's a badge of honour."

- Asia Argento, the Italian actress who accused Harvey Weinstein of rape and touched off a global crusade, in an interview with The Guardian.

Italian actor, director and singer Asia Argento. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

What The National is reading

  • Canada wants to deport 15,000 people, but 'uncooperative countries' won't take them. (CBC)
  • Civilian death toll from anti-ISIS airstrikes in Iraq is much, much higher than reported. (NY Times)
  • Two months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico suffers in darkness. (CBC)
  • Sorry Roy Moore, Joseph wasn't twice Mary's age. (Politico)
  • A chess novice gives himself one month to get ready to play a grandmaster. (WSJ)
  • L.A.'s homeless cities: underground bunkers, tunnels and 1,000 bikes. (LA Times)
  • Holocaust survivor, 102, united with newly discovered nephew. (Times of Israel

Today in history

Nov. 20, 1985: A crash course in reality for Generation X.

Someone probably should have given them lessons on fashion, too.

In International Year of Youth, a group of teens discover they cannot be anything they want to be. 5:01

About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.